The Primacy of Life and Consciousness

by Navid Zaidi

All things are one.  —Heraclitus, On the Universe  (540-480 BC)

Classical physics proposes that the universe was, until rather recently, a lifeless collection of particles bouncing against each other. Life and Consciousness arose by an unknown process and then proceeded to advance under Darwinian mechanisms.

We assume a universe separate from us ‘out there’ into which we have arrived accidentally on a temporary basis. The standard view is that the universe would exist even if it were empty of Life and in absence of Consciousness.

George Berkeley (Irish-Anglican Philosopher, 1685-1753), for whom the town and the university campus were named, said: ‘The only things we perceive are our perceptions.’

Without perception by a conscious observer, there can be no reality. Without the act of seeing, thinking, hearing—in short, conscious awareness—we have got nothingness. Nothing is perceived except the perceptions themselves, and nothing exists outside of Consciousness.

The universe which seems to us to be a collection of things is not  solid stuff occupying a space. It is not a thing but a free creative movement. There is no physical universe outside of Life and Consciousness.

Says Prof. Sir Arthur Eddington (British astrophysicist, 1882-1944) in his book Space, Time and Gravitation:

Mind filters out matter from the meaningless jumble of qualities, as the prism filters out the colours of the rainbow from the chaotic pulsations of the white light……..Is it too much to say that the mind’s search for permanence has created the world of physics?’

The last sentence in this passage has a deep meaning. The passing show of the world of physics, which the mind has created in its search for permanence, is rooted in Life and Consciousness.

We are told that the laws of the universe somehow produced the observer in the first place! However, it seems that the observer creates reality and not the other way around.

Explains Robert Lanza, MD, one of the most respected scientists in the world today, in his book Biocentrism:

Consider the seemingly undeniable logic that our kitchen is always there whether or not we are in it. At night, we turn the lights off and leave for our bedrooms. We think that, of course, the kitchen is there, all night, unseen. But consider: the stove, the refrigerator and everything else are composed of shimmering swarm of energy. Quantum theory tells us that none of those subatomic particles actually exists in a definite place. Rather, they merely exist as a range of possibilities that are unmanifest. In the presence of an observer, that is, when we go back to the kitchen- each one’s wave function collapses and it assumes an actual position, a physical reality. Until then, it’s merely a range of possibilities.

So, while we may think that the kitchen as we remember it was ‘there’ in our absence, the reality is that nothing could be present when a consciousness is not interacting. What we perceive as reality is a process that involves our consciousness.

What this means is that when we do not look at the Moon, the Moon vanishes; that’s obvious enough. If we still think of the Moon and believe that it’s out there orbiting the Earth, all such thoughts are mental construct.

Sight, touch and smell- all these sensations are experienced in mind alone. None are ‘out there’ except by convention of language and utility. Everything we observe or feel is the direct interaction of energy and mind. The Grand Canyon or the Taj Mahal are real only when we go there!

In summary, Life is the fundamental fact of the universe. Its existence does not seem to be derived from physical laws and it has nothing to do with structure or function per se.

Says Sir Dr Allama Iqbal (Indian poet-philosopher, 1877-1938) in the introduction to his epic poem The Secrets of the Self:

Life is a forward assimilative movement. It removes all obstructions in its march by assimilating them. Its essence is the continual creation of desires and ideals, and for the purpose of its preservation and expansion it has invented or developed out of itself certain instruments, e.g. senses, intellect etc. which help it to assimilate obstructions.

Consciousness is a deflection from Life. It is not a substance but a purely spiritual principle of Life. This worldview calls into question the nature and reality of the universe. If the universe before us is ‘Consciousness’ then it shifts the focus from a cold, inert and external universe to issues such as how is your consciousness related to mine and that of the animals and, perhaps, plants as well.

Adopted From:

Robert Lanza, MD:  Biocentrism

Sir Arthur Eddington: Space, Time and Gravitation

Sir Muhammad Iqbal:  The Secrets of the Self

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